Get Rid of Mindless Practicing Piano with this Fun Creation!

I am so excited about a last minute idea I had last week when I was preparing for group lessons! This year, I want to help my students practice smarter, not harder or longer. In previous years, I’ve told them about all the great ideas I have about how to make this happen, but it feel like it goes in one ear and out the other. Anyone else have this issue when talking to their students about practicing piano?

Practicing piano is fun with this craft to help spot practice | composecreate.com

Practice Abacus to the Rescue!

Last year, I bought a bead counter from The Practice Shoppe that I have on piano that helps students keep track of how many times they have practiced a section of music. There are 10 beads on the counter, but that’s a few too many times to ask most students to practice one small section. When we used the practicing piano counters in lessons, they were great about the first 5 beads, but seemed to falter in their resolution in practicing piano after that.

I didn’t want to make all my families buy a bead counter, but I was suspected that my students weren’t using the 3 pencil approach that I have taught them for years (where you put 3 pencils on the left side of the piano and move one over for every time you get a section perfect). So, I began to wonder how I could encourage them to SEE their progress visually so that it would keep them accountable to practice.

After all, we all know that kids are very kinesthetic and will be much better at practicing piano if they can touch, feel, do, or see things!

Why not make your own Practicing Piano Abacus?

Eureka! “Silly me. We’ll just make our own at our first group lesson!” I thought. Ten beads on a pipe cleaner should be pretty easy! But then I got to thinking about how I really wanted them to practice:

  1. Play the entire piece and note which sections need more work.
  2. Pick 1 section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 5 times.
  3. Pick a 2nd section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 5 times.
  4. Pick a 3rd section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 5 times.
  5. Play through the entire piece at least 1 more time and then make note of what needs more work the next day.

Why not make a Practicing Piano Abacus for the entire piece?

Piano practicing ideas, practice abacus to the rescue!| composecreate.comSo, I began thinking that we could make something that depicts in one glance what they are supposed to do with each piece! Woo-hoo! Now we’re talkin’!

  • Row 1 – 1 bead for the 1st play through
  • Row 2 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 1st section
  • Row 3 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 2nd section
  • Row 4 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 3rd section
  • Row 5 – 1 or 2 beads for the final play through(s)

With this set up, students can see that they are not really done with each piece until ALL the beads are on the OTHER side of the abacus!

So that’s what we did this week at our fall kick off group lesson! Obviously, the kids loved picking their mats and beads and creating something together. I even had my older students do this too, reminding them that even in college, I was moving pencils from one side of the piano to the other, because it’s just too easy to cheat and think we’ve done something 5 times when we’ve only done it 2-3. Being accountable works for all ages.

So here’s how to make your own:

Supplies for the Piano Practice Abacus:

  • Practicing piano ideas, practice abacus to the rescue!| composecreate.comHemp twine, necklace string, pipe cleaners or anything that is a little rigid so that the beads can easily be added.
  • Duct tape (to tape the string to the back of the mat board.
  • 5×7 mat boards (I didn’t know you could find these, but they are just pre-cut mat boards you can find at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. I got a set of 35 assorted styles for $6.99 plus I used a 40% off coupon to make it even less)
  • Beads – available at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and craft store
  • Markers – We didn’t use these but thought it would have been nice for students to write something at the top if they wanted

This probably doesn’t need explanation, but here are assembly instructions:

  1. Practicing piano ideas, practice abacus to the rescue!| composecreate.comCut 5 pieces of string to be about 10 inches long (just in case you need extra length. If the holes on your beads are really small, you might need to cut the string more as you…kind like threading a needle).
  2. Tape the 5 pieces on the back of the mat board in the right position. You can also notch the mat board with scissors as that might help them stay.
  3. Add your beads.
  4. Pull the string taut and tape the other side to the back of the mat board.

Happy practicing piano and group crafting! Be sure to leave a comment to let me know if you do it and what the results are!

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